Galen and the Theory of Temperaments

The Greek physician Galen, AD 130-200, worked in the filed of human anatomy where he identified numerous muscles for the first time and showed the importance of the spinal cord noting the resulting paralysis when the cord was cut at different levels. Born in Pergamum, Galen resided chiefly in Rome and was personal physician to several emperors. Credited with some 500 tretises, Galen correlated earlier medical knowledge with his own discoveries.

Galen was the first to consider the pulse a diagnostic aid. He showed that arteries carrying blood, not air, and added greatly to knowledge of the brain and nerves. His written tretises survived as the medical authority until the 16 century.

Galen introduced the aspect of four basic temperaments reflecting the humors: the sanguine, bouyant type; the phlegmatic, slugish type; the choleric, quick-tempered type; and the melancholic, dejected type. Galen also classified drugs in terms of their supposed effects on the four humors. He thus created a systematic guide or selecting drugs, which, unfortunately, was scientifically incorrect.

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    All contents copyright (C) 1995
    Peter L. Heineman
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